The Wedding!!!

So, we’re on this fabulous -91- sleep round trip to a family wedding in Italy and we’re nineteen sleeps in, so that leaves -72- to get home again. The straightest route home would be to head south again:

….but instead we headed north and we’re now slap bang in the middle of Switzerland. On a farm.

… and tomorrow we’ll be heading off even further north. So follow along if you’d like. But seeing as this trip was all about the wedding, I’d love to share a little of it with you. As it’s not my wedding, I won’t overshare someone else’s day, but I do want to share with you why yesterday was so special for me.

If you’ve read any of my books, you’ll know I’ve never belonged or been welcome in my family of origin. You’ll also know how aware I am of the roles our tribes play in everyone’s lives, and how discombobulating and soul destroying it can be to feel you don’t belong anywhere. You’ll also know that for many good reasons, we’ve lived all over the world. That’s a great thing and I’m most thankful for that. But the two (no tribe plus nomadic lifestyle) can be a lethal combination. Especially for the things so many “normal” people take for granted; friendships, weddings, funerals, rites of passage, to name a few.

I love weddings, and one of the careers I might have had, if I’d been given normal opportunities, would have been somewhere around weddings. There are lots about that in my memoirs, but the bottom line is, that over the years, just for love, I’ve made half a dozen wedding dresses, a number of wedding cakes, run a handful of weddings, done the flowers for more than a few, and decorated for more than I can count. But being a “normal” attendee; not so much. And other than my children’s weddings, or the ones I’ve been involved in, I’ve missed almost all the family and friend weddings of my life.

Many of us don’t think of wedding attendance as being a rite of passage, but it’s only when you miss out on most of them that you realise what an important part of tribal culture they are. For the last few days, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching that play out at this wedding. Being a “destination wedding” everyone stayed a few nights at least, and we didn’t know anyone except the immediate family. So The Captain and I got to be a fly on the wall as the other guests assumed we had nothing to do with the wedding and did their thing. We got to sit around the pool next to some of them and overhear them sharing stories of the couple and themselves of years gone by. We got to watch them singing silly songs in the pool as they anticipated some antics for the reception ahead. Later, as they sat at the table next us to, we got to see the odd friend shed a tear of joy he thought no one saw.

The last few days we’ve watched friendships gather new depths, and relationships strengthen. We met super proud uncles, adoring cousins, and we got to see some people at what they thought were their worst but we thought were their best. When people feel pressure and rise to the occasion anyway, it’s such a pleasure to watch.

It was a gift. It was an honour to be there. But most of all, it was super special for me because the mother of the bride is my cousin. A third cousin I think, but none of this once or twice removed nonsense. We share an incredible heritage, and we share passionate Scottish blood. I had no idea she existed till just a few short years ago and suddenly I have family in ways I never thought I would. I do have another set of cousins whom I love just as dearly, but there’s always room for a second set I say! So the bride was my niece of sorts and as the Captain said so many times yesterday, we’re so proud of her!! How can someone new pop into one’s lives and take up a place so special so quickly? I think that’s the blood thing.

The Captain and I scrubbed up alright for a couple who’d been camping for three weeks! 🤣

The bride has brothers and of course a groom and it’s been incredible getting to know them too. One we’ve known for a while but for the baby of the family, I was so nervous to meet him for the first time. But we clicked and he found his way so quickly into my heart and when I learnt he was the baker of the cake and he learnt I could string a couple of flowers together we hit it off immediately. I’d already been given the honour of doing the flowers by his mother, my cousin, so this was really just an extension of that. But we had so much fun as he added the flowers to his creation and I got to cheer him on every step of the way. If you need a wedding cake (any cake!) anywhere in Europe, this is your guy!!!

To be included the way they included us was beyond special for me. To be there as a guest because they wanted us there was amazing. To attend a family wedding other than my own or my babies, was uniquely heart warming, and to get to contribute was also to be included – which means everything when you live on the fringes. To be invited in was so wonderful.

If you read anything I write or know anything of my greatest passions, you’ll know they’re all about community and inclusion and working alongside each other.

The wedding was beautiful and not just for this incredible setting and GORGEOUS bride, but because of the connections and the love and the laughter and the community and the kin!!!

So… now we’re off home again the loooong way around, AND book two in the memoir series goes live on Monday! So if you haven’t grabbed your copy at preorder prices then grab it HERE before then 😊💜👊🏻.

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Thermo-Time!

So, a couple of years ago I was introduced to the theory of Thermomix. I’m not sure they explained it too well, as it made no sense to me …at the same time as sounding too good to be true. My hands can no longer chop veggies, and I’ve always struggled with allergies, as well as a conflict between wanting to eat well but lacking the time and energy and later, physical ability, to make many things from scratch. The Thermomix is supposed to fix all these needs and more. But really???

Over the last year I’ve come face to face with the actual machine time and again, from people who swear by it, but never seen it in action. Then a couple of weeks ago in Italy we spent the weekend with my cousin and saw it doing it’s thing for the first time. We were sold.

But it just didn’t feel like a sensible priority right now in the middle of unpacking our home… even though, if ever there was a time for a quick way to produce amazing and healthy meals, this is it. But not a good time to learn something new. So we pushed it to the back burner.

Then a couple of days ago we stumbled past a stand selling them outside our supermarket and we quickly gave the sales lady our number as we rolled past (supermarket shopping is a wheelchair only experience for me at the moment).

Today she arrived with our brand new machine and started her demonstration. It was a couple of hours of fun and hilarity, much of it’s at his expense I’m afraid. But he was very good about it I have to say.

Apart from his pet hates of innocent cushions and pillows, third on the list is empty jars. Who in their right mind packs and moves empty jars right?!?!?! I tried to explain that they’re only empty for moving, and that I use them for all kinds of things. But he wasn’t convinced. This on a day when his pet hates were basically anything that came out of a packing box. Any and all books on Monday were a waste of time and space, clothes particularly useless. On Monday, moving was a massive mistake and he pretty much hated everything we own.

Thankfully, by Tuesday evening he was in love with our things again, and I, of course, have overdone it trying to set it all up again and prove it. But it’s starting to look like home at last.

But I digress. Back to today and the glass jars. Firstly, we don’t have a pantry in this lovely little home, so the dry goods have been transferred to many of the jars, and the sideboard has become the pantry. I love it. (Secretly he does too!).

Then as Christina, our demonstrator, made one dish after the next, she kept asking for glass jars to put the finished products in. We’d make eye contact above her and chuckle to each other as over and again another jar was needed.

She started off peeling, chopping and storing all our garlic …. in about three minutes! Followed by a lesson (and another jar) for storing parsley.

Then it was time to make lemonade. Not usually my thing but using whole lemons and hardly any sugar, it was delicious and a good lesson for making cocktails.

The lemonade was followed by banana and blueberry sorbet, which I’ve decanted into nearly a dozen small containers to pop in the freezer.

Pizza dough was next and while that rose she made exquisite chickpea and spinach soup. That was ready at the same time as the garlic bread (from half the dough) and we sat down to an incredible lunch not much more than an hour after she arrived. It’s usually an hour, she said, but as our cupboards are almost bare, he had to pop next door to the corner grocers no less than seven times during the process.

I feel a little miffed that I’ve spent thirty years making food the hard way, … en masse for a big family – plus additions, and now he gets to step in for the fun stuff for the next thirty … but I also look forward to not having to teach him how to cook, and to having food appear for me instead of the other way around. I’m also looking forward to shedding some of these unwanted kilos that have crept on as my mobility has decreased. So there’s not much to complain about really!

Oh, and did I mention we have a kitchen now???

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The Good News or the Bad News?

I’ll start with the bad news as it’s simpler.

We rented an apartment in Malta that wasn’t quite finished (literally just needs kitchen and curtains and insect screens installed) everything else is stunning and brand new and finished). But at least we could store our stuff while went for our six week Molly adventure, and if it wasn’t finished on our return we could cook in Molly but sleep in the apartment.

The bad news is it’s not ready, which is fine, but the adorable landlords have rented us another gorgeous, furnished apartment, and set us up with food, towels, beds …everything just a few blocks away.

Which is very kind. But we need to unpack and start getting things sorted ASAP as we have visitors and things we need, and things to unpack, and and and …. so it’s annoying.

But the good news list grows longer by the day:

  • They won’t let us pay rent on either place.. for the furnished apartment or the one without a kitchen. So we’re saving a few bucks which is a bonus as we still haven’t sold the house back in Joburg.
  • That in turn gives them incentive to get finished, we feel really bad for them, but it’s good knowing that we’re taken care of and it’s in their interest to get things finished soon. So it will happen, and we don’t need to nag them.
  • We are in the ground floor apartment right on the edge of town, so unlike our apartment where Molly will sleep in the basement garage, here we can park her right at our front door. And with a washing machine and dishwasher etc, we have been able to bring everything in, in just a few steps (including my Molly mattress and put it on top of the bed here… not quite the same but pretty good), clean her out, unpack the Sphinx… it’s turned out be such a blessing … sorting out Molly without feeling like we should be unpacking the boxes.

  • I’m not very good at sitting still so if we were surrounded by boxes I’d constantly chip away at them and totally overwork myself very quickly. Instead, each morning we head over, work for three hours, he does all the lifting, I do the sorting and directing (which doesn’t always go well), then we head home for lunch and don’t think about the unpacking again till the next day. An impossible feat if we were right there.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to plan things when you’re one step removed. The serenity of a tidy, well appointed apartment with a fabulous view is a much better place to plan, regroup, restore and refresh, than an overwhelming apartment with boxes to the ceilings! A couple of Netflix binges are helping to do that somewhat, hence the radio silence of the last few days. It’s been great!
  • Part of the move included unpackers. After nearly a dozen international moves I know the drill and I hate it. A swarm of men descend at the crack of dawn and by nightfall, everything you own, including the dust bunnies under your bed in the old house, and the junk drawer (usually now upturned), and all the half bottles of shampoo from five people (now a quarter filled with the rest smeared over the rest of the bathroom contents), are now unpacked. If you don’t know what that looks like, imagine upturning every drawer, box, wardrobe, cupboard, in your entire home and garage and garden shed, onto your floor, beds, stairs, kitchen counter, and even the bath. Believe it or not, there are not enough flat surfaces to hold everything you own. You can’t eat for the laden kitchen and you can’t reach the cupboards to start loading them. You can’t get to your bed under all the linen you didn’t know you owned and the washing machine doesn’t work because the power plug is still from the wrong country so you can’t wash all the shampoo out the towels. You’re hungry, so exhausted you can’t breathe…. and everyone expects you to fix it… right now. But because we don’t have a kitchen, yet we need our stuff, the removal company agreed to spread the load over a few days. I asked for the weekend in between two of them, and the last third only once we have a kitchen. It’s still a zoo, it’s still a third of our belongings spread over half the house (not a bad ratio considering!!), but with the weekend to sort out much of what was unpacked on Friday, we’re getting to do this a little slower. I can’t begin to tell you how much better that is.

So the non-kitchen is proving to be a bonus. He still thinks that if we’d rented a different apartment, moved to a different country, owned different things, … or we’d simply put a match under it all before we’d left, it wouldn’t be nearly this stressful. In reality, it’s not a patch on all the other moves I’ve done while he’s in the office making all his new friends… Five people’s stuff instead of two, all on my own instead of with his help, no spotless apartment to retire to in the evening, unpacked in one day instead of three, and no one to nag us to find things for school or work the very next morning… this is bliss!

But it still sucks. Moving sucks. And tomorrow morning (Monday) will be round two of the proper unpackers. Hopefully they’ll find the linen … but that’s a story for tomorrow or the next day!

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Redeeming Rhythms

One of the very first steps to our second half is all about “redeeming our rhythms”. Most people look at me blankly when I tell them this and you’re going to hear about them a lot, so maybe I should explain…

Redemption: The action of regaining or gaining possession. Or, the action of saving or being saved from something.

Redemption is a rather old-fashioned word, but I love it. It is about claiming, reclaiming, ownership, and in a very positive way, taking back control. We plan to regain possession of our time, to set aside many traditional constraints, but also to reign in and save ourselves from the ways in which life could disappear.

For us, this Second Half concept is extremely intentional. It would be so easy, the moment we “retired”, to just go with the flow and follow where life leads us. There is a lot that is wonderful about that, but unless we are purposeful, we could easily find ourselves a couple of years down the track, feeling quite lost. We don’t want to be collecting seashells, we want to build purpose and meaning, and unless we prepare well, that won’t happen on its own.

Many of the rhythms of life are chosen for us, by our work and family commitments, our sleep patterns and our health, and even our social lives and the people we hang out with. Life feels out of control for many of us exactly for this reason, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

On the other hand, by retiring, when many of these rhythms are stripped away, we can do the opposite and float away aimlessly. Through the decades we have had so many problems with the lack of balance in Doug’s life and they have come at great cost to all of us (including him), and we want to change this, but not go the other way.

He has started studying, we love to travel, and there is much healing work to be done. We want to see more of the children and grandchildren, and we need to “find ourselves” (though I struggle with the term). We thoroughly enjoyed publishing my first book and part of the great mission of our Second Half is to tell our story and to publish it. It’s a redemption story itself, so watch this space! I have been writing full time for the last couple of years but that has all been put aside the last six months as the packing up of our lives has unfolded. We are both busting to get back into it, to publish the first three books over the next year or so. And in case you didn’t know, he’s an amazing publisher.

The two days since “retirement” we have been completely discombobulated with jet lag, exhaustion, emotion and excitement, illness, stress, and more, and so for both us, we are keen to begin the process of redeeming those rhythms ASAP.

Structuring in Quiet Time, exercise, writing time… setting the odd deadline and expressing and sorting through our goals. Neither of us grew up in worlds where we were allowed to express our needs, so we also have ways in which we are learning to do this. It’s harder than you think when you don’t know how to do it…

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